Those of you who follow me on Twitter have probably noticed that I take the National Organization for Marriage, the anti-gay hate group masquerading as a pro-family organization, very seriously. I push back in earnest at @nomtweets on Twitter, call out lies and distortions, and generally act as though I care what they say.
I might well do otherwise. Even in America, slow as change is to come here, marriage for gay people will be routine in a generation. The shaving cream is out of the can, and it isn’t going back inside. NOM is on the wrong side of demographics, and of history. An organization that calls itself “pro-family” while it spends donors’ money trying to find children who will denounce their parents on camera shouldn’t be surprised to be treated as a bunch of laughable hypocrites. Besides, I have twice as many Twitter followers as they do, so what does it matter?
In 1980, I was fourteen years old. I was already a gay person then (for that matter, I was already one a decade earlier, but that’s a subject for another post). But the overall tone of press and the public discourse about gay people, even after a decade of sexual revolution and social liberation, was one of pity and scorn. Gay people, even in big cities like Los Angeles (where I grew up) and New York (where I live now), were not real people or full people in the eyes of the mainstream media.
Gay people did, of course, exist, even in the media. They had jobs, mostly in fashion or hairdressing or flight-attending; they had boyfriends, or even “lovers.” The really edgy ones had “domestic partners.” And, as everyone knew, all of them had sex, and quite a lot of it, too.
But despite surface similarities, gay people weren’t Like Us. They lived in the city and didn’t even mind! (suspicious behavior, in those days). They stayed up late! They were stunted, big children with no responsibilities; they spent their money on fun and frolic; but at bottom, their lives were empty and sad.
You may think I’m exaggerating, but I’m not. The American Psychiatric Association didn’t remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders until 1973, and the rest of the culture took 20 years to catch up.
Like every gay person who lived in those times, I absorbed the trivialization of gay people, of our lives and our loves. As recently as 10 or 15 years ago — when I was 30, 35! — the idea of gay marriage startled me, because I had been conditioned to think of my love as somehow not real love, my family as somehow not a real family. The inevitable consequence of that is that one comes to think of himself as less than fully human.
Now, I’m a relatively healthy person with loving family and friends and a sound sense of self-respect, so I survived. And I had come across examples in my own life of gay people who were fully realized human beings and paid no mind to anyone who said or thought otherwise, so I grew into a more or less comfortable gay adult.
But not everyone has my advantages.
Who I marry will make absolutely no difference to the life of anyone in, say, Missouri. But every time the odious Maggie Gallagher goes on TV to sneer at gay families, every time a NOM “social scientist” “publishes” a “study” “proving” that the children of gay parents are stunted and lead empty lives (sound familiar?), every time the name of Jesus Christ is invoked in order to mock the holy and human experiences of people like me — every time these things happen, a few thousand fragile kids in Missouri learn false lessons that they will spend the rest of their lives trying to unlearn.
They learn that their feelings are bad, that their experiences aren’t real, that their choices are indecent, that there may never be anyone to love or understand them. They learn to conceal themselves from those who most love them, and to live lives that aren’t true in order to protect themselves from pain and sadness.
I emphasize again that I grew up very fortunate: intelligent and well educated, in a financially stable family, loved and encouraged by parents who were not afraid to let me roam the world, taught to question and think for myself.
And it still took me twenty years of adulthood to come to understand that the way God made me was good and right.
The voice of the anti-gay American right wing (because, at this point, in the Western world, this sort of frenzied, spluttering denial of the humanity of gay people is largely confined to the Christianist American right wing) is mistaken. Its message is false. It’s simply wrong. Gay people are real people, fully human; our experiences are authentic and true and good; as a community, our lives and our loves can survive provincialism and fear and negativity.
But as the fragile individuals we are when we are alone in the dark with our thoughts, we are hurt by all that vile nonsense, discrimination masquerading as science, angry clannishness masquerading as the word of Jesus Christ (who would be startled and shamed to hear the things said in his name).
The relationship between NOM mouthpiece Brian Brown and his God is a matter for them to work out between themselves. But the God who (as Brian believes) sent his son to clear away the old covenant to make way for a new one, and to die for the sins of lepers and prostitutes and swindlers, is not a God who would countenance, for instance, pitting black people against gay people, or encouraging children to denounce their parents. Or, for that matter, as is currently happening in Minnesota, sending hate squads into Catholic high schools to teach young people that gay people are a cancer on society. (Again, a matter for another post.)
So speak out against hatemongering; speak out against fear. Speak out for happiness, yours and those of others. Speak out and say that you are fully human, fully American, fully Christian (if that’s what you are). Say that your experience of life is real and legitimate; describe it; help others to understand it, that they may protect you from those who (through fear, or malice, or whatever — it’s not your concern) undertake to hurt you.